First of all, thank you so much for all your messages of congratulations and appreciation and your kind words. We wish to say that we did not do this to receive accolades or score points, but we did it, because we considered it to be something of vital importance, something about which all of us are passionate. We have been frustrated for many years about the violation of our right of access to publications. My first involvement happened in 2005 where I did a presentation in the then Port Elizabeth at a conference about creating a culture of reading. Jace has been involved with this matter for longer than he would like to remember and he was directly involved in the Marrakesh Treaty seeing the light of day. André and Ntshavheni have done numerous media interviews. Jace, Ntshavheni and I have done presentations to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee and we have attended many workshops and conferences. But those really deserving of your praise are Section 27 and Adv Jonathan Burger who offered their services to us for free. I always believed (and it has now been proved) that the legal advice they have given us, was the best possible advice to achieve our goal in the shortest time. The method advocated by Prof Owen Dean of Cape Town would not have had this result and would have led to years of litigation. Likewise the method promoted by another blindness related organisation in a presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee would not have had this outcome for years and only resulted in confusion among persons not part of the blindness sector, as they could not understand why two organisations for the blind were opposing each other in a matter that is of such vital importance to all blind persons. But it all ended well and we achieved what we have been striving for for so many years. You may recall that the Copyright Amendment Bill was accepted by Parliament and the National Council of Provinces whereafter it was sent to the President to be signed into law. When a bill is sent to the President, he can do one of two things in terms of the Constitution: he can either sign it and it becomes law, or he can return it to Parliament if he has constitutional reservations for those reservations to be reconsidered. But when the President hadn’t done anything about the bill for 13 months, Blind SA launched an application to the Constitutional Court to compel the President to sign the bill, as 13 months is an unreasonably long time to delay taking any action. On receipt of our application, the President returned the bill to Parliament, raising 6 constitutional concerns he had. At that stage there was nothing more we could do about it, because remitting the bill is one of the two options the President has. One of those concerns, particularly the tagging of the bill, is one that is going to cause adoption of the bill to be delayed for several years to come. So blind people have become collateral: All the warring parties are happy with Section 19.D of the bill which provides the copyright exemptions we need, but the bickering around the bill caused us not to get the provisions of Section 19.D. Then something interesting happened: The Constitutional Court wrote to our legal team and posed two questions:
- Do we consider the matter to be moot now and
- Would we not wish to claim our legal costs?